Four months after Hard Core’s release, on March 9,1997, the Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down in Los Angeles. Kim had remained in Bronx, N.Y., to prep for a show.
Shaka Don: Kim used to stay at my house a lot. She was at her mother’s house across the street. They couldn’t reach Kim because something was wrong with her mom’s phone. So they call me at two in the morning and Damien is crying. He told me Big got shot. I ran across the street. Kim was getting her hair done because we had a show the next day. When I came through the door, she said, “What’s wrong?!” I said, “Sit down.” I told her Big got shot. And then I said, “Let me call Damien before you get crazy.” Then Damien told me he was dead. She threw herself on the floor and started kicking and screaming and crying.
Jackson: Un called me and said, “Get to Biggie’s mom’s house now.” I lived around the corner, so I ran out the house in a T-shirt and sweatpants. That was the first time I saw Ms. Wallace, [screaming], “They killed my son!” Kim jumped out the car in the middle of the street crying. We were mentally out of it after that. Everybody thought it was over.
Rivera: That [next] morning, we all went to the office. She broke down. Like, “What am I gonna do now? What’s gonna happen from here? Will I be able to move on? He was a big part of everything that I did.”
Cheo Hodari Coker (writer, Unbelievable and Notorious): In my last conversation with Big, he talked about getting back with Faith. And he talked about his ups and downs with Charli Baltimore. But with me, he didn’t talk about Kim. I think that’s affected Kim to this day. Her role in his life was never clearly defined. I’m sure that made getting over his death even harder. She had a whole Jackie O. performance at the funeral. And this was in front of his wife. I think she acted out because she wanted people to know she was really hurting.
Monique Dopwell (friend and former assistant): I know Kim will never love like that again. She really lost focus for a while. She would cry a lot.
Duncan-Mao: That same year that Big died, I was interviewing her for the cover of The Source. I went out to the house where she was living with Junior M.A.F.I.A. They were chilling, smoking blunts, playing video games. And Kim was cleaning the kitchen. I thought: This is not going to end well. She was convinced that Big would have wanted her to take care of them, so she did.
Lil’ Cease: When Big passed, me and Kim had our biggest record out, “Crush on You.” We were still working. But then, as time passed, we became angry and aggressive. We were going through a lot. If I could go back in time, I would’ve worked harder after Big died. I laid on that backbone for too long. I thought I would always rock with Big or Puff.
Chrissy Murray (former publicist, Atlantic Records): I was at [Big’s] house a lot with her and Ms. Wallace, a townhome in Glen Point, one or two months after he died. She was peaceful and happy to be there in his place. She was quiet. Always about her work.
Following Big’s murder, Kim postponed recording another album. Instead, guest spots on Puffy’s “It’s All About the Benjamins,” the LOX’s “Money, Power, Respect” and Mobb Deep’s “Quiet Storm Remix” kept her in the limelight.
Prodigy (rapper, Mobb Deep): “Quiet Storm” was originally for my solo record. It got a lot of airplay before we commercially released it. We changed the plan and made it a Mobb Deep record. We needed a female element, and we got Kim. She wrote her verse right there in the studio. She did it quick. I didn’t touch it.
Duncan-Mao: She was talking about Charli Baltimore on the song... Someone close to Jay-Z told me that Jay really wanted to step in and help Kim and try to write for her after Big was gone. She rebuffed him. She was insistent that she would do it all herself.
York: She ended up working with Puff on [her sophomore album, Notorious K.I.M]. I don’t think Big would have wanted Puffy to A&R Kim’s album. But she wanted to be close to anyone and anything related to Big. There was no closure.
DJ Clark Kent: When Big died, she thought she was a boss. And she stopped listening to people. She has to have firm direction. If you stop listening to people, you’re going to crash. Notorious K.I.M was good. But clearly, it wasn’t Hard Core.